It was New Year's Eve 1975-76, and I had just turned 11 years old about a month and a half before. The new year was going to be, the US bicentennial! News commentators had been talking it up for months, and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new, more exciting year. At about 10 pm the grown-ups were sitting around a large heavily carved dining room table at my aunt and uncle's house. They were drinking a rare wine from crystal goblets. My uncle, the gourmet chef, had brought up something very special from his wine collection in the cellar for the occaision. The stories the grown-ups told produced great, booming belly laughs but were not for children's ears. We three children were in a sepperate small study watching TV and waiting for something magical to happen, something that would define one year from the next, something that would make everything new and different.
My sister, who is five years older than I, disappeared into the kitchen and returned with an important secret. She motioned to me "Com'ere, com'ere, shhhh! We're going to go outside for a minute." I wasn't really interested in going outside into the mid-winter cold, but she grabbed my arm and pulled me over. Then she lifted the corner of a napkin she was carrying and showed me one chocolaty brownie hiding inside. We left my 8 year old brother in front of the TV and slipped out of the front door into the icy cold to munch on the brownie.
"Is it the last brownie?" I was trying to figure out why we had to sneak outside to eat a brownie, and why weren't we sharing with our brother?
"No," she said. "Auntie gave me a brownie with hash in it."
"What!" My eyes just about bugged out of my head. This was a new and different! I had heard about drugs. They were bad. I knew that we weren't supposed to have them. But my persuasive sister, who was pretty good at pushing my 'dorky little sister' buttons, had had marijuana before. She told me that it would be really fun. In truth, it didn't take much convincing. It was, after all, a brownie from my uncle's house, and everything he made was a treat.
I took my half of the brownie and ate it the way I usually ate brownies, shoving most of it into my mouth all at once. What a disappointment! It was full of twigs, kind of chewy, and not very flavorful.
"Now, we'll go inside and watch cartoons, it'll be really funny!" she said.
I sat down in an easy chair in front of the TV with my sister and brother, only a little worried that I might get into trouble, but nothing happened at first. Then my dad came in and sat down with us and I started to worry a lot more. I started to feel a little out of control, like my brain and body weren't connected in quite the way that they should be. The cartoons were not becoming funnier, I just couldn't follow them any more. There was a delay in my reactions. If I turned my head, the visual image turned more slowly in a disjointed way. This was not funny. This was very disturbing. I became more and more concerned that one of the grown-ups would be able to see that something was wrong with me, so I got up to go to bed. But as I passed the dining room door, my mother saw me and called me over to her.
"Butternut, Butternut, I need you to come here for a minute." Oh no! She's going to see that something is wrong with me, I thought. I walked over to her, concentrating very hard on being normal and not looking directly at her. "Butternut, I want you to look into my eyes." she said.
I'm sunk. She knows. This is the beginning of the worst year ever! I am going to die of embarrassment. The family will start to scream at each other, blame will be tossed around, and I will be sent to a school for juvenile delinquents. Always the obedient child, I looked very carefully into my mother's eyes.
"Do I look drunk?" she asked me. What? She doesn't know! I'm saved. What a relief.
My mother rarely drank alcohol, but her face was flushed, and her eyes were at half mast. She looked happy and dizzy at the same time. "No! you look fine," I lied. "I'm really tired. I'm going to bed," I said. I made a hasty exit to the bedroom. No longer interested in ringing in the bicentennial, I spent my evening worrying that someone might come to check on me and discover the secret. Guilt, shame, and paranoia spun around the room as I fell asleep.